Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Nationals Part 5 of ?

As soon as we had won in quarters, my mind turned to semis. I made sure the team was settled, fed and drinking then Gordy, Ryann and I raced over to watch the end of the Cal-Colorado quarterfinal. It was a dog fight.

11-10 Cal when we got there and Cal quickly punched in another to go up 12-10. "Done deal," I thought. (Of course, I had walked away from the Colorado - UW pool play game when UW was up 11-6ish, so that shows what I know.) Colorado just wouldn't lay down. They are old school - hard running, force flick, classic dump-swing-attack offense, but above all hard-nosed and tough. (I am always amazed at how often teams end up expressing the playing character of their coaches.) I don't know if it was the defense (which was good) or the fatigue (which was there) or strategy (which it could have been,) but two-thirds of Cal's possessions ended in an An-Chi forehand huck, often to Cree, but they weren't landing all that often. For the next forty-five minutes the game goes back and forth with Cal hucking it and then Colorado inching it up the field, one comeback cut at a time. Cal's hucks aren't paying off consistently and Colorado picks up the two breaks to take the lead. On double game point, Cal pulls ob and then sets up the zone. As a coach, I cried. A brick is always painful, but doubly so when you are trying to play zone or junk. The offense sees the d, gets set, the disc is centered, the best thrower gets to scan the field...agh! Sure enough, Colorado walked it the fifty yards, throwing backhands the whole way. Game over, we're playing Colorado.

Colorado's run through Nationals was impressive. First, they knock off Washington after being down 6-12. They scored eight in a row to win! Eight! Then, in pre-quarters, they knocked off Stanford after being down 10-12! Then in quarters, they knocked off Cal after being down 10-12, again! What an awesome, fun ride that must have been. Much props to Tina McDowell for getting Kali to where they are - nice job, mom!

Weighing all those pieces together, I decided to come out and run with them. It seems kind of contradictory to try to run with a running team, particularly when we had the flexibility to come out playing junk. However, I knew they were tired and that we were fresh. If we play junk, that's an opportunity for them to rest. I felt like they really needed their defense to generate momentum, so I wanted to keep a portion of their energy focused on offense. We did opt to play middle; not because we are particularly good at it, but because most teams' offenses are bad against fm. Just another way to try to make them uncomfortable.

We came out fired up and rolled, running out to 5-0 and 10-1 leads. Colorado got a break in the second half and our man-to-man slackened, so we put it away and ran junk the rest of the game.

It was a very weird semifinal. The game wasn't in doubt after the first fifteen minutes or so, but there was still a long way to go to finish. Because of the point-spread, no one was watching. We were still employing the "don't get out of the tent" rule, so our sidelines were completely empty. The game was strangely quiet - a huge contrast from pretty much every worlds or nationals semifinal I've been involved in. Absent was the ravening emotion, the crazy drive to make every play, the desperation and exultation of every turnover so when Aubri hit Shannon for the game winner, there was a pause and then Holy! Shit! Finals! and joy broke out!

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